Barry Schwabsky at The Nation:
And yet, as different as they are, Giacometti and Neel (like Giacometti and Serra) have more in common than might seem apparent at first sight. We tend not to think of them as belonging to the same generation: Giacometti was part of the great prewar flourishing of art in Paris and one of its hardy survivors into a midcentury in which he and his peers (including somewhat elder figures like Picasso and Miró) were richly honored but no longer quite of the present. Neel, by contrast, is thought of as an artist of the postwar era, and one who came into her own in the ’60s and ’70s. Yet that’s all something of an illusion: Giacometti, born in 1901, was a year younger than Neel. But Giacometti got started young, and though he died at a relatively early age, it must have seemed to art lovers of the time as if he’d been on the scene forever. Neel found her way as an artist much more slowly: By the time Giacometti died in 1966, she was just starting to gain the fame that she would enjoy until her own death in 1984.
The Giacometti retrospective, on view at the Tate Modern in London this summer, begins in a most striking way: with serried ranks of sculpted heads confronting the viewer in a dense crowd. They range in date across nearly 50 years, from the student’s earnest exercises of 1917 through the works of the mature artist in the 1960s. Facing them, one does feel—as Krauss said—alone, or at least outnumbered. Giacometti’s aesthetic developed over time—from its roots in the Beaux-Arts tradition through a canny embrace of aspects of cubism and surrealism and even, for a moment, abstraction, until he finally arrived at the unclassifiable way of working that was unmistakably his own and no one else’s.